Proper dimmer for low voltage recessed lights

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Jack Ferry, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. Jack Ferry

    Jack Ferry Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm in the middle of installing a string of 9 mini eyeball recessed lights (50W, low voltage) in my basement home theater. Here's a link:

    http://www.usalight.com/lighting/ove...98067637648559

    (As an aside, I'll point out that these were a great bargain - less than one-third of the cost of comparable lighting at HD.)

    The instructions note that these low voltage fixtures use a magnetic transformer and "require the proper dimming equipment". It then goes on "A magnetic dimmer may be used with the low voltage fixture. An improper dimmer may damage the transformer."

    In looking at several dimmers, I saw that some were rated for use with low voltage fixtures. However, these dimmers said they were for use with electric transformers.

    Are electric transformers different than magnetic? Will a dimmer rated for low voltage electric transformers (as well as regular lights) work for magnetic transformers? If not, where can I find a proper dimmer? (Ideally I want to go with a remote controlled dimmer.)

    Thanks!!
     
  2. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    In my experience, magnetic transformers are much less picky about what they're dimmed by than electronic transformers.

    However, my guess would be that the magnetic transformers represent quite a different load to the dimmer than do the electronic transformers.

    If you're going to run these lights at some dimmed level for a long time - hours or days - then you may want to take some precautions. If you're largely going to use the dimmers to ramp from ON to OFF and back again, and leave it, for the most part, all the way ON or OFF, then I'd say don't worry too much.

    That being said, the dimmer matters.

    I know you can get a Lutron cheapie 600w dimmer from Home Depot for, what, $6.99?

    DON'T!

    They ain't worth it.

    Spend the extra $10 (that is, total $17 or about) and get the old, moldy, dusty box that holds the Lutron NOVA dimmer, 600w.

    If you really want to do it right, get a NOVA with "NLV" in the part number.

    I don't know how well the SPACER dimmers work - they do listen to infrared remotes. They, too, have an "LV" option (SPLV-###) for magnetic transformers.

    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  3. Jack Ferry

    Jack Ferry Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Leo. I'll let you know how I make out.
     
  4. Mike V

    Mike V Stunt Coordinator

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    Jack,

    I recently installed magnetic Low Voltage lights in my kitchen with a magnetic transformer. The dimmer I used was a Lutron "Ariadni". Worked great and cost about $17.00. Part # AY-603P-WH. I found it at my local electrical supply house.

    One issue to be wary of is the fact that when dimmed LV magnetic lighting can tend to "buzz". A good dimmer, or in the worst case an in-line filter can clear it up.

    I don't know about yours but my light was expensive and the possibility of burning out the transformer was not an option for me.
     
  5. Jack Ferry

    Jack Ferry Stunt Coordinator

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    Good point Mike - I don't want to tear apart my new drywall to get at a burned out transformer. (But I can't complain that my lights were expensive. Less than $10, and it included both the housing with transformer and the mini eyeball trim. Link is in my first post.)

    I hadn't thought about buzzing, but now that you mention it I've had other lights buzz like crazy when dimmed. I'm not familiar with in-line filters. Guess I'll try one of the Lutrons Mike and Leo suggested and see if there's any buzzing or other problems. (Before I put drywall around the soffits.)
     
  6. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    I had forgotten about transformer buzz. I guess, generally, because where we've got so many of 'em, we've had more problems with the electronic transformers out-right dying, and the noise-floor is high enough that a little 60Hz rattle is inaudible.

    So to everything, apply the caveot: "your milage may vary."

    Leo
     
  7. marc_manny

    marc_manny Stunt Coordinator

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    I installed Halogen track lighting above my PC, and had a dimmer attached. It hummed all the time, and it annoyed me. In the end I realized I always kept the lights turned up all the way, so I just removed teh dimmer and installed a regular old on/off switch.

    I was going to buy a low voltage dimmer, but all the ones I saw were like $60.00 at Lowes or HD.

    Marc
     

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